White House: NY Ebola case won’t be last

The doctor discharged Tuesday from a New York City hospital after recovering from Ebola won’t be the last U.S. case of the deadly virus, the White House warned Tuesday.

“Today is a milestone, but let’s be clear ... we’re going to see occasional additional cases of Ebola in our country,” White House Ebola czar Ron Klain told MSNBC. “This is not the last one.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Craig Spencer, a 33-year-old physician who contracted the virus while treating patients in West Africa, was released from Bellevue Hospital on Tuesday after weeks of isolation and treatment. Spencer was the last known case of Ebola in the United States.

Klain hailed Spencer’s discharge as “a milestone in showing our strategy of identifying, isolating, and treating Ebola patients can be successful,” and he noted that all eight U.S. citizens who had contracted the disease survived. A Liberian man who traveled to Dallas and infected two nurses treating him died from the disease.

Klain said the U.S. had “seen improvement in all aspects of our response since then,” and that Spencer’s release was evidence that ordinary hospitals could successfully treat Ebola patients.

“We’ve improved our readiness in the healthcare system to treat their patients ... that shows we know what to do with Ebola if we identify it and treat it quickly,” Klain said.

He also said doctors like Spencer were essential to fighting the disease at its source, chiding state officials like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) who imposed strict quarantine procedures on returning healthcare workers that exceeded the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations.

“We are concerned where you have quarantines that are not based on medical science, it does tend to discourage healthcare workers from going and fighting this disease in West Africa,” Klain said.

Klain called on Capitol Hill to move quickly to approve President Obama’s request for more than $6 billion in additional funding to combat the disease. The former chief of staff to Vice President Biden said he had personally briefed lawmakers from both sides of the aisle on the request during a meeting Friday at the White House and that the administration expected the Senate to begin consideration on Wednesday.

“We expect there to be rigorous questioning about it,” Klain said. “It’s a carefully constructed request. It is an urgent situation.”

Klain also dismissed speculation he would remain in the administration after wrapping up his work as the Ebola response coordinator. Administration officials said he only planned to work a few months on the project, but rumors surfaced that he could replace either White House counselor John Podesta or chief of staff Denis McDonough as a top presidential adviser.

“Once I’m finished, I’m going back to private life,” Klain said. “This is more than enough for me.”